How growers are protecting the Valley's grape crop from hungry birds

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Harvest is well underway for Fresno County's billion-dollar grape crop.

The valley's valuable vines produce table grapes, wine grapes as well as grapes for juice and raisins.

And they need to be protected.

Bright, reflective ribbons protect the grapes against birds looking for a free meal.

"Reflective tape is used as a visual scare tactic. There's many different ways you can do it. There can be balloons," says Fresno State vineyard technician Leah Groves.

Groves says the birds are very smart and scope out areas where there is no tape or loud sounds designed to keep them away.

Crews in the field trim off any damaged or dried up grapes.

"And this could be part of bird damage. If they pick at it, it starts to rot and it can cause the whole bunch to start rotting," says Groves.

The California Table Grape Commission estimates 105 million 19-pound boxes of grapes will be packed this season. About the same as last year. Shoppers have been waiting to buy the locally grown bunches.

"Most of the grapes, about 97% of them, are grown in the San Joaquin Valley. So from Madera, south to the Tehachapis," says the president of the California Table Grape Commission, Kathleen Nave.

Over the years, many growers have pulled out their vineyards and planted almonds to take advantage of a growing global demand. But Nave says this year the industry has seen a lot of vineyards now coming into production.

She also noted strong consumer demand for the crop now coming into season.

"They're grown here, particularly for people here. The money you spend, the decisions you make on how to spend your money a difference to the people who are working in the vineyards, working in the cold storages."

With over 80 different varieties being grown, the Valley grape season lasts until December.
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